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Associated Press, Published October 30 2010

Big 3 on move as Minnesota governor race nears end

ST. PAUL (AP) — The weekend before the election brought no rest for Minnesota's three major governor candidates, who were on the move early Saturday in the traditional desperate push to energize volunteers, remind supporters to vote and win the undecided.

Republican Tom Emmer enlisted former Sen. Norm Coleman for morning appearances in Mankato and Edina, wit his biggest event planned for mid-afternoon. In Blaine, Emmer was pumping up the star power with a rally featuring Tim Pawlenty and two other GOP governors: Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Chris Christie of New Jersey.

In St. Paul, Democrat Mark Dayton gave a brief pep talk before sending his doorknocking teams off to seek votes ahead of Tuesday's election. The former senator slipped in and out of a labor hall, speaking for less than 90 seconds before shaking hands, posing for photos and heading off to his next stop.

"You hold the future of this election in your hands today. Your hard work is going to make all the difference in who votes on Tuesday," Dayton told the room full of nurses, plumbers, electricians, roadbuilders and teachers. "I can't thank you enough for what you're doing."

A coalition of unions plans to make 100,000 phone calls and in-person visits to possible Democratic voters between Saturday and the election, said Chris Shields, a spokesman for the Minnesota AFL-CIO.

Before Dayton arrived, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota political director Rick Varco coached canvassers on how to motivate voters who aren't sure they'll even cast a ballot this year.

"Everyone remember that Al Franken won by just 312 votes. It shouldn't be hard to convince people that every vote counts," Varco said, adding for emphasis, "Do you think things are going to get better if you stay home?"

Dayton went semi-casual — open shirt, blazer and pressed slacks — for his Saturday rounds. He had four stops on his itinerary, including another union hall, and hoped to squeeze in a bar mitzvah reception for the son of a supporter.

No Democrat has won the Minnesota governor's office since 1986.

Tom Horner, the Independence Party candidate hoping to upset his better-financed rivals, sandwiched meet-and-greet events in Bloomington and Eagan around an appearance in St. Paul. Horner was a featured speaker at an event there staged to coincide with comedian Jon Stewart's "Rally to Restore Sanity" in Washington.

Ahead of Horner's remarks, laughter replaced the usual chants and cheers as more than 100 people in the Capitol Rotunda to watchd a simulcast of the Washington rally.

Groups independent of the campaigns kept up their efforts to sway the race. The National Organization for Marriage sent a text-message blast ripping Dayton and his party for an "attack on Catholics."

The message refers to a DFL mailing in a state Senate race that uses religious imagery against a Republican candidate who is also a preacher; Republicans have labeled it anti-Catholic even though the preacher isn't Catholic. Dayton called his party's use of religion in an ad inappropriate.

The National Organization for Marriage group has run TV ads touting Emmer as the only candidate who opposes gay marriage. The ads criticize Dayton and Horner.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.